Kerala Sambar is a lentil (dal) based curry with mixed vegetables and coconut. Sambar is a delicious curry which all South Indians are familiar to and its every region has its own taste and style of making it. Sambar can be had with any meal like rice, dosa, idli etc.
Kerala sambar is an authentic and traditional sambar recipe of Kerala. It is slightly different from other sambar recipes as it uses fresh spices and roasted coconut which are ground and then mixed with dals and vegetables. Roasted coconut, spices and use of coconut oil makes the kerala sambar rich in flavors, aroma and taste.
Kerala has many versions of preparing sambar, based on the region. It can be prepared with or without coconut. The preparation varies with the local taste, flavors and spices available. The recipe here is the traditional method of preparing Kerala Sambar with roasted coconut and spices.
Kerala sambar recipe is prepared with toor dal and vegetables like shallots/pearl onions, lady’s finger (okra), drumsticks, ash gourd, potato, onions etc. You can also use pumpkin, brinjal, yam, carrots, ivy gourd and other veggies too. Tamarind and tomatoes both are used to get the tangy taste but however, you can use only tamarind and skip adding tomatoes too. You can always adjust the spices as per your taste and preferences.
For more kerala recipes, do check: ulli theeyal, ulli sambar, ulli chammanthi, kadala curry, moru curry, rice puttu, idiyappam, unniyappam, pazham Pori, Ari payasam, ela ada, kappa Puzhukku, Nei choru (ghee rice).
To roast & grind:
1 – 1 ½ cup coconut, grated
2 tbsp coriander/dhaniya seeds
5-6 dried red chillies, adjust as per taste
¼ tsp fenugreek/methi seeds
¼ tsp or a small piece hing/asafoetida
3-4 shallots/pearl onions
1 spring curry leaves
2-3 tsp coconut oil/any cooking oil
½ cup toor dal/tuvar dal
1 potato, cut into large cubes
1-2 drumsticks cut into 2 inch pieces
6-8 ladys’ finger /vendakka/bindi, cut into medium pieces
1 brinjal, cut into pieces
1 cup ash gourd /kumbalanga, cut into medium pieces
½ cup pumpkin/mathanga, cut into pieces (opt)
10-12 shallots /sambar onions or 1 big onion
1 medium tomato, chopped
¼ tsp turmeric powder
Tamarind, lemon sized
2 tbsp coconut oil or any other cooking oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 springs curry leaves
2-3 dried red chillies
- Heat a pan and add coconut oil to it. Add fenugreek seeds and fry on a low flame till light brown. Transfer it to a plate. Add hing and fry in oil for few seconds. Transfer it along with fenugreek seeds.
- To the same pan, add coriander seeds and dried red chillies. Fry for few minutes till you get a nice aroma and red chillies turn slightly brown and crisp. To this add curry leaves, shallots and grated coconut. Fry well till the coconut turns brown in color. Take care not to burn the coconut. Switch off the flame and let all the roasted ingredients cool completely.
- Now grind the roasted ingredients to coarse powder. You can prepare this in bulk and can be stored too for later use. You can add little water to the prepared sambar powder and grind again to a paste. Sambar masala paste is ready now, keep aside.
- Wash and rinse well toor dal and all the vegetables. Chop the veggies and keep them ready. In a small bowl, add warm water and soak tamarind for 10-15 minutes. Squeeze out the juice and keep aside.
- Heat a pan and add 1 tsp oil. Add slit shallots and fry them on a low-medium flame till they turn soft and light brown in color. Keep it aside. To the same pan, add lady finger/bindi and fry it as well for few minutes.
- In a pressure cooker, add enough water, pinch turmeric and toor dal. Cook for 2-3 whistles. Let the pressure release by itself. Mash the cooked dal slightly.
- Optionally you can add vegetables like potato, pumpkin, ash gourd and brinjal along with toor dal and pressure cook them too. If adding veggies along with dal, do not add drumstick as it becomes too mushy. Also vegetables can be cooked separately and can be mixed with toor dal later.
- Transfer the cooked toor dal into a thick bottomed vessel and add all the chopped vegetables (except tomato), fried lady finger and shallots along with little water. Mix gently and let them cook on a medium flame.
- When vegetables are cooked well, add tamarind juice and bring to boil till the raw smell of tamarind goes off. Now add chopped tomatoes and cook again for few more minutes.
- Add ground sambar masala paste and mix well. Add water as needed to get the consistency you prefer. Bring to boil and keep stirring often to prevent dal sticking to the bottom of the vessel.
- Check for salt and spices in the sambar and adjust accordingly. Boil sambar for few more minutes so that all the ingredients are well combined. Cover the sambar with a lid and keep aside.
- Now, heat a tadka pan or small pan and add coconut oil. When oil is hot, add mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add curry leaves, dried red chillies and pinch hing.
- Pour the hot seasoning on to the sambar and close the vessel with the lid. Let it sit for few minutes before serving.
- Serve hot Kerala Sambar/Varutharacha Sambar with rice.
- You can use mixed vegetables of your choice to prepare kerala sambar.
- Toor dal quantity can be increased to ¾ th cup.
- For spicier kerala sambar increase the dried red chilli quantity. You can also include kashmiri red chilli for a more bright color in the kerala sambar.
- Fry coconut till brown color on a low flame. This enhances the taste and texture of the kerala sambar. But be careful not to burn coconut.
- Roasted spices can be ground to fine powder and can be stored too.
- Coconut oil gives an authentic traditional taste to the kerala sambar. However, other cooking oils can also be used.
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